With their offense clicking on all cylinders, the Atlanta Braves are quickly making up for their brutal start to the season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to be headed in the opposite direction.
The surging Braves try for a ninth win in 10 games as they continue a four-game set with the Diamondbacks, who are hoping to avoid losing four straight at home for the first time in over a season Friday night.
Since opening with four consecutive defeats - its worst start since losing its first 10 in 1988, Atlanta (8-5) has proven nearly unbeatable. The Braves have averaged 7.2 runs while batting .298 with runners in scoring position during their 8-1 run.
One night after posting its highest run total of the season during a 14-6 win over the New York Mets, Atlanta went 4 for 12 with runners in scoring position during Thursday's 10-2 win at Arizona (7-6). Freddie Freeman continued his recent tear at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a pair of two-run homers and a career-high five RBIs.
Mike Minor, meanwhile, added to the Diamondbacks' recent struggles, allowing one earned run and striking out nine over a career-best eight innings.
Arizona, which won four straight and five of six to open its season, has since dropped five of seven - including three in a row at home. The Diamondbacks haven't lost four straight at Chase Field since Sept. 4-7, 2010.
"Baseball," manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's not fun to be a part of it, but you have to endure these times. We've been through it before, last year."
Already without injured outfielder Chris Young (right shoulder contusion), Arizona was forced to leave two-time All-Star Justin Upton (jammed left thumb) out of the starting lineup for the third consecutive game. It's unknown if Upton will be able in this one.
"Every morning when I get up it's a little better, which is a positive sign," Upton, who's batting just .212 with no homers in nine starts, told the team's official website. " ... We'll see how it is (Friday)."
Looking to take advantage of the Diamondbacks' injury-stricken lineup is Brandon Beachy (1-1, 0.75 ERA), who surrendered an unearned run and three hits over seven innings of Sunday's 7-4 win over Milwaukee. The hard-throwing right-hander has made it through at least seven innings just three times in 30 career starts.
"(Pitching to contact) is going to help me get to the seventh and eighth inning, having a few quick innings," he said. "I was able to do that, and that comes from getting ahead in the count and throwing the ball over the plate."
In his only appearance against the Diamondbacks, Beachy gave up one run, four hits and stuck out seven in six innings of an 8-1 home win Aug. 20.
The Diamondbacks will send Trevor Cahill (1-0, 1.35) to the mound in hopes of getting back on track. Acquired via trade from Oakland during the offseason, Cahill has limited opponents to a .143 average over his first two outings.
The 24-year-old sinkerballer was at his best during Sunday's 5-2 win at Colorado, surrendering one run and four hits over 7 1-3 innings.
"Trevor Cahill is a big-time sinker ball guy and he threw some very good ones today," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
"This is a guy that if you're going to succeed against him, you definitely have to force him to raise the ball up, because if in fact you don't, there's going to be an awful lot of groundballs hit against him. That's how good his sinker is."
Cahill will need to be wary of Freeman, who's gone 7 for 13 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his last three games.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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